Raging controversy over Obi of Igbodo�s marriage to non-indigene – Vanguard

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What played out in England
in 1936 when King Edward VIII abdicated his throne to marry the woman he dearly
loved, seems to be playing out in Igbodo kingdom in Delta State. The Obi of the
community is in a tangle with his subjects over whether to abide by the
age-long tradition and custom of the people and marry a native or insist om
marrying his Abakaliki-born heartthrob.

Before the Abakaliki-born
wife of the Obi was forcibly ejected from the palace recently, a cold war had
brewed between the young Obi who is in his 30s and majority of his subjects
especially the womenfolk and some palace chiefs, who are insisting that
marrying a non indigene was a desecration of their land.

Obi shows traits of
modernising culture

The Obi who is a law
graduate, upon mounting the throne, had subtly given the sign that changes were
in the offing although many of his subjects could not read his lips well. He
became the Obi immediately after the death of his father, His Royal Majesty
Albert Sunday Iyeke III, and was crowned on January 12, 2007.

Asked then by newsmen about
why his surname was changed from Iyeke to Osedume, the Obi said that the
surname was changed by his late father before he died. According to him, he did
not know the reason behind the change. He further stated that his father was
the end to the Iyeke dynasty while Osedume I is the first and beginning of his
generation.

What led to the cold
war:  Along the line, he was said to have married the Abakaliki woman from
Ebonyi State who presently has a baby girl for him. But that marriage not
withstanding, the community leaders led by the palace chiefs insisted that he
must marry an Igbodo woman. And there came the face off which culminated in
series of correspondences to the Delta State Government. The letters were
authored by the Iyase of Igbodo Kingdom (Prime Minister), Chief  Joseph
Unoma

One of such letters by the
Iyase  was dated November 20, 2012 and addressed to the State Deputy
Governor, Prof. Amos Utuama (SAN). Titled �The boycott of the palace of HRM,
Obi of Igbodo by all his subjects� read in part: �I do not intend to bore your
Excellency with details of the case in this memo, but the root of the problem
is that the Obi of Igbodo wants to marry an  Ebonyi State woman, contrary
to the custom and tradition of our people.

In other words, the custom
is that the first legitimate wife, who will bear the heir to the throne, must
be a native of Igbodo kingdom.� While the conflict was still on, the mother of
the King, popularly called the Queen Mother passed on and the Igbodo people
insisted that there would be no burial until the Obi gets married to an Igbodo
woman. This, according to them, must be done as prescribed by the tradition
before the interment.

The Obi did not bulge. The
last straw that broke the camel�s back took place on December 28, 2012. The embattled
Obi went and mobilised people from Ebonyi State, an officiating minister from
Asaba and arrived the palace with the �controversial� wife for the commencement
of the burial.rites.

In a jiffy, the villagers
stormed the palace in a commando style, insisted that the burial must stop and
the Ebonyi-born wife ejected. They succeeded when armed soldiers and policemen
found out that there would be chaos and shielded away the woman from the
palace. That was the deportation.

The outrage that followed:
The first salvo was fired by the national co-ordinator of the Forum for Justice
and Human Rights Defence, FJHD, Mr. Oghenejabor Ikimi. His group is even
contemplating instituting a law suit to challenge the deportation of the Obi�s
spouse.

He said: �We volcanically
condemn same as stone aged and an insult to womanhood. We submit that the
Igbodo custom which still forbade a 21st century Obi from marrying a non
indigene as wife is one of the numerous harmful cultural and traditional
practices inhibiting women�s rights nationwide and we call on all women groups
outside the kingdom to condemn same.

To address the above
challenges, we call on the Federal Government to ensure the immediate passage
into law of the bill on the abolition of all forms of discrimination against
women in Nigeria and other related matters and the domestication of the African
Union Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa�.

Another activist disagrees,
insists that tradition should be respected no matter what:  Delta State
Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Prof. Patrick Muoboghare,
stated that tradition is sacred and such activists should not meddle into it. He said: �I can go to Maiduguri and marry a Muslim woman; nothing stops me
but there are those who dare not.�

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